Monday, January 18, 2010

Travels in Kiwiland Elisabeth Rose

I’m just back from a two week holiday in New Zealand’s beautiful North Island. NZ is a short, cheap hop for Aussies and at this time of year gives respite from our long hot summer as the northerly tip, Cape Reinga, is only about level with Sydney. Auckland is a few hundred kilometres south.
NZ sits on the join between two of the earth’s plates so is a mass of mountains, most of which are or were volcanoes. Earthquakes and constant geothermal activity are normal. For spectacular scenery and unspoiled natural beauty it really can’t be beaten. We hired a campervan and set off from Auckland to the Bay of Islands in the north. Driving is slow on narrow and usually winding mountainous roads but around almost every corner is a ‘wow’. Our first camp was at Oakura, a little town on the coast just south of Paihia the main tourist centre for the Bay of Islands. We parked the van in a front row space flanked by families holidaying there for a week or more. Just a few steps across a stretch of grass to the beach.

The Maori people and culture are very much in evidence everywhere. A Maori friend of ours used to delight in telling us that his were the only indigenous people undefeated by the British.
The two nations signed the Treaty of Waitangi and the Treaty House is in Paihia.
We’d forgotten how quiet it is at night out of the city. Absolutely beautiful. After a day or two we began to adjust ourselves to the sun. Up at about 6 in bed by to read for a while in the feeble light of the van. I’d taken 3 books—Aussie friend Anne Gracie’s recent release ‘To Catch A Bride’ which is a rollicking read, Blake Snyder’s book on screenwriting ‘Save the Cat’ which is very interesting with lots of good tips for novelists as well as screenwriters and Georgette Heyer’s ‘Beauvallet’, about an English sea captain at the time of Elizabeth 1st, also a rollicking good read.

My husband had Stieg Larssens’ second book ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ and that kept him engrossed the whole time. Strangely enough he got to talking about it with some fellow campers somewhere and then a few days later in Taupo we discovered the Swedish film of ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ playing in the one movie theatre. They showed it in the Lounge which had eleven seats. Like sitting at home with a big TV screen. Three other people were there so it was all very cosy.

Taupo is south of Auckland and sits on Lake Taupo, a popular holiday spot. On the way there we drove up Mt Ruapehu which is a ski area in Tongariro National Park, a World Heritage area. There’s still a bit of snow at the top and the chairlift was running to take hikers (trampers in NZ speak) and sightseers even higher up. It had a very bleak post apocalyptic look with massive grey brown rocks and swirling cloud over the volcano shaped peak.
From Taupo to Rotorua is only a short drive. This is probably the best known tourist spot in NZ. Bubbling mud and thermal springs, steam coming from the ground and the Pohutu geyser which we were lucky enough to see in action. A guide told us many people wait hours and it doesn’t erupt at all.

Our campground had a couple of thermal pools for guests to wallow in. It seems most of the residents of Rotorua have their own hot water spas in the backyard. A lady I met in the waiting lounge at Sydney airport told me to buy some Rotorua black mud facial products so I stocked up on Black Mud Masks for my friends and Black Mud soap and skin cleanser. Doesn’t sound appealing but she said her friends swore by it.

The bubbling mud has been on my list of things to see. Don’t know why but I’m fascinated by it. It looks so creamy and smooth then gives fat gloops and bloops.
Some pools build up little volcano shaped mountains until they can’t gloop high enough, then they burst out the side. There’s a pool of boiling water called the cauldron which is still used for cooking food the way the Maori who lived there did.

Close to Rotorua is Matamata where the Lord of the Rings was filmed. At least where the Shire bits were filmed. Apparently they rented a paddock from a farmer. The Hobbit houses are still there and tourists can visit the site. We drove through lots of areas that looked exactly like The Shire but didn’t visit Matamata.

We voted this one of the best holidays we’ve had. NZ campgrounds are among the world’s best apparently, with a population of only 4 million it's virtually empty compared to other countries, everyone is very laidback and friendly, the pace of life is slow and the scenery is spectacular. Go!


Sandy Cody said...

I love this account of your trip to NZ, especially the pictures. They brought back memories of a wonderful trip we took there with friends some years ago. We'd love to go back. Unfortunately, from the eastern US, it's a long, expensive jaunt. Still . . . ah, some day.

Thanks for sharing.

Elisabeth Rose said...

Thanks Sandy. I just discovered that if you click on the pics they come out really big.

Sandy Cody said...

Thanks for the tip. They're even better enlarged. You're a good photographer.

Carol Hutchens said...

Thanks for sharing the beautiful pics, Lis.

Amy DeTrempe said...

It sounds wonderful.

Sarita Leone said...

What a lovely post! Thank you for sharing your trip with us. The photos are beautiful.

Oh, another entry on the long list of places I'd love to visit! :)

Elisabeth Rose said...

Yes Sarita, we have a long list of places to see too--next year, Egypt to fulfil a goal of my husband's. He's always wanted to cruise down the Nile.

Loretta Brabant said...

Great Pics Lis! My husband and I also went to NZ several years ago. I agree! The scenery is something else. We'd love to go back. *sigh* :)

Jane Myers Perrine said...

Lis--absoutely delightful. Loved the photos. I'd love to visit NZ but it's hard to do that from the US. Thank you for sharing your trip.

I've wanted to go to Egypt since fifth grade when I wrote a play about tomb robbing. Even then, I loved to write. Please sahre that adventure with us.


Anonymous said...

I had very mixed feelings as I came to look at this site. My bestest ever friend emigrated a couple of months ago, December 2009,to North Island.But it was good to see the beauty of the place he had always dreamed of living. Thank you for sharing your fabulous holiday.